Daly sings way back to the top

By United Press International   |   April 9, 2002 at 2:15 PM
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AUGUSTA, Ga., April 9 (UPI) -- The life and times of John Daly, some of his biggest fans have insisted, could only be told in song.

So Daly has obliged.

In the not too distant future, it will be possible to hear Daly sing, "I'm drunk, damn broke and don't have a penny to my name."

There also will be, "Knocking on Heaven's Door," and "Where I am now."

"I sing them with my heart," Daly said Tuesday. "I know I'm out of tune. But that's what people wanted, so that's what I did."

Those who follow golf have also wanted Daly to kick all his bad habits and resume his previous place among the world's top players. He has done both those things, capping a return to the game's spotlight by earning an invitation to the Masters.

Daly's five-year exemption for winning the British Open ran out last year, meaning he missed the tournament for the first time in a decade.

With his world ranking having slipped to 506 after years of personal problems that led to wrecked marriages and struggling attempts to stop drinking, Daly dedicated himself to getting back to the Augusta National Golf Club. By climbing into the top 50 in the world rankings, an invitation to the tournament that begins Thursday was forthcoming.

"It's great to be back," Daly said. "It was a goal of mine to get back. I felt the only way to do that was get back in top 50 and I did that.

"I used that as an incentive. I don't know if it is rededication. But I was more focused than I was before. When you tee it up, you want to win. But even if I couldn't win, I wanted to make the cut to earn points and move up in the rankings. That gave me something to focus on. It made me try an awful lot harder."

Although Daly has not won on the PGA Tour since his victory at the 1995 British Open, he did win last season on the European Tour at the BMW Open in Munich.

"When I left here after the 2000 tournament, I definitely wondered whether I would ever be back," Daly said. "But now I don't dwell on it. Everything is more positive now. I don't dwell on the past anymore."

Daly's byword is, "moderation." He no longer goes on drinking binges. He no longer eats a half gallon of chocolate ice cream at one sitting. He has stopped taking the various medications that doctors had recommended in an attempt to bring his bouts of depression under control.

"All that medicine had me bloated up to 260 pounds," Daly said. "I had no energy. You name it, they (doctors) had me on it. I felt like a rat.

"Now I'm sort of into moderation. Sometimes I still go on my chocolate splurges, but I'm not as bad as I used to be. It is no comparision. My one vice now is singing.

"I'm not any good at it, but I love to do it."

Daly has made an album that will appear in stores during the next few months. But he does not plan to give up his day job.

"The fans have been through thick and thin with me," he said. "It is nice to play good golf for them. I try not to throw shots away. I don't get mad. If I play bad, I play bad, but at least I know I tried on every shot."

An example of that came last month at The Players Championship. Although it was almost certain he would miss the 36-hole cut, Daly birdied the last three holes of his second round. He did miss the cut, but by just one shot, and the fact that he battled all the way to the finish line demonstrated as much as anything that he has the attitude to win a big title.

"I love the way I'm hitting the ball, but I'm not putting too good," he said. "This is not a good place to come if you are not putting well. My key will be getting off to a decent start.

"It would be awesome to come down the stretch battling with Tiger Woods. It would be great for golf and for the fans. And I could learn something, too.

"I guess I am a sort of late maturer in everything. But it is so great now that everything in my life is positive. I didn't know if it would happen. I wake up every day thinking that I am playing a great game and doing what I have always wanted to do. That is a great feeling."

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